Rivka’s Age II

November 15th, 2005 by Yaakov Ellis

parshablog responds to DovBear’s post about Rivka’s age with different insights to the midrashim at the root of the issue, as well as a comment on midrashim in general.

A choice quote:

One thing I have seen is that people in general have an unsophisticated view of midrash. Midrash is a close reading of text, which picks up on fine points, details and nuances. It often serves a homiletic purpose, or emphasises/exaggerates features that are in the literal story itself. It is also an art form.

Those who take every midrash absolutely literally are missing the point. Those who try to harmonize competing midrashim are missing the point. Those who are upset at the midrash and rail against it because they think it improbable or against a literal reading are also missing the point.

Well put. Midrashim are not there to be quoted willy-nilly to make whatever proof the reader wants to make. Each midrash is coming to address one specific aspect of a character, story, theme, etc. Most are not meant to be taken literally. And all must be viewed and studied in context in order to make sense.


4 Responses to “Rivka’s Age II”

  1. 1

    dovbear Says

    Yes, this is exactly why I object to the widespread belief that Rivka was three. The truth – ie the point the Midrash was trying to make – is far more complicated, but how many Jews ever get around to investigating the issue? Instead they go thtrough life imagining that Rivka was three, according to authentic, traditional, beleife and that’s it.

  2. 2

    Yaakov Says

    I think that point is that maybe she was three. Or maybe the midrash is to teach something else by saying that she was three. Simply saying “three?? ludicrous” is ignoring the fact that there is a thought-process, based on accepted hermeneutic principles of interpreting the text that legitimately concludes that she wasthree.

    I am not sure completely sure if this was the point that you were trying to make in your post (after reading what you wrote, I am getting something of a “three?? ludicrous” feeling). Feel free to let me know if I got things wrong.

  3. 3

    S. Says

    >Yes, this is exactly why I object to the widespread belief that Rivka was three. The truth – ie the point the Midrash was trying to make – is far more complicated, but how many Jews ever get around to investigating the issue? Instead they go thtrough life imagining that Rivka was three, according to authentic, traditional, beleife and that’s it.

    you know I agree with you. i don’t think the historical rivka was three and I too am dismayed when intelligent adults not only think that but are unaware that this is but one opinion, and that there is another one.

    but you know what? we keep saying “there are deeper meanings” in fantastic midrashim. well, what is the deeper meaning in this one? is it only to preserve chronology?

    i think at a certain point people like us have to stop just espousing a rational stance vis a vid midrashim and actually start tackling these midrashim, and trying to uncover the “deeper meaning”. If there is a midrash that she was three, then what, according to US is it trying to convey?

  4. 4

    Mechael Says

    See jewishlegends.com, Tanach Section, which bings down a Tosafos saying that Rivkah was much older than 3 years old when she married Yitzchak Avinu.

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